SAMOAN INTERNATIONAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE MEMBER DENIES WRONGDOING

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By Alan Ah Mu

APIA, Samoa (February 14, 1999 - Agence France-Press)---An International Olympic Committee (IOC) member implicated in corruption allegations around the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics strongly denied last week he did anything wrong.

Samoa's Seiuli Paul Wallwork said various allegations made against him were worthless. But he declined to discuss his future on the IOC.

A 300-page independent ethics panel report issued in the United States detailed cash payments, lavish gifts, paid favors and widespread corruption of the Olympic movement.

Among the claims were allegations that Seiuli's wife, Julia Curry Wallwork, received a US$ 30,000 loan from Salt Lake City bid chief Tom Welch.

Sports Illustrated reported Seiuli was sent two US$ 6,000 plane tickets to fly to Berlin, which was then bidding for the Olympics. And Stockholm's Dagens Nyheter newspaper reported Seiuli's daughter received free medical consultations in Sweden.

He said he was amazed an issue had been made of a US$ 150 doctor's bill in Sweden.

"To me it's incredible," he told a press conference. "Even just to think about it."

While in Sweden as a guest of organizers of that country's bid for the Olympic Games, his daughter fell ill.

"We didn't call a doctor because it was just a head cold," Seiuli said.

"But they insisted that the doctor come to see her, check her out. I think they were trying to impress us."

Seiuli said it was within the rules for organizers of bids to pay expenses of their guests.

He said he would never ever ask guests to pay for a doctor if they fell ill and had he been required to pay for his daughter's treatment he would easily have done so.

The doctor saw his daughter for 15 minutes and was so quick, Seiuli said, the doctor didn't even sit down.

"He gave us some tablets. But we already had our own tablets. I always travel with them."

He said the loan from Welch was in November 1991 when there was no bidding for any games.

"Our families are very very good friends. We knew them well before then."

The loan was an issue between two people and it had been repaid, said Seiuli ,who added he did not know of the transaction until years after it had been made.

"It had nothing to do with Salt Lake City. It was a personal loan from Mr. Tom Welch for an issue that I'm not going to go into.

"It is in fact outside of the IOC jurisdiction, it is outside of anybody else's jurisdiction, so it is outside of the press jurisdiction as well.

"And we've already explained it to the IOC -- it's very clear."

The allegations surrounding the airline tickets to Berlin first surfaced in 1995, Seiuli said.

Seiuli said the IOC arranged tickets to be paid through them, from Samoa to Los Angeles. They then picket up tickets in Los Angeles from the IOC.

"I just cannot understand how such a story can come about when the facts are those."

Seiuli said he often wondered why the press in the west focused on "any little thing" about developing countries, including the hurtful things written about his family.

He said for IOC members found guilty of having broken the rules, the honorable thing to do was to resign.

Seiuli is the head of the Samoa Department of Sports, Youth and Culture.

Michael J Field, Agence France-Presse, Auckland, New Zealand Tel: (64 21) 688-438; Fax: (64 21) 694-035; E-Mail: afp.nz@clear.net.nz WWW: http://www.afp.com/english/

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